SEOUL, May 7 (Korea Bizwire) — Sales of imported vehicles in South Korea rose 26 percent in April from a year earlier amid the pandemic, while Japanese brands still struggle with weaker demand following ongoing trade tension between Seoul and Tokyo, an industry association said Thursday.
The number of newly registered foreign vehicles rose to 22,945 units last month from 18,219 a year earlier, the Korea Automobile Importers & Distributors Association (KAIDA) said in a statement.
“New models released by Audi and Volkswagen and increased supplies and marketing activities by Mercedes-Benz helped drive up the monthly sales. German brands posted robust sales, but Japanese brands continued to suffer a decline in sales,” KAIDA spokeswoman Park Eun-seok said in a statement.
Imported brands accounted for 17 percent of South Korea’s passenger vehicle market in the January-March period, up from 15 percent a year ago. Their market share for April will be available in late May, she said.
From January to April, foreign carmakers sold a total of 77,614 autos, up 10 percent from 70,380 in the same period of last year, KAIDA said.
The three bestselling models were the Volkswagen Tiguan 2.0 TDI sport utility vehicle, Mercedes-Benz’s CLA 250 4MATIC, and BMW’s 520d sedan, the statement said.
German brands — Audi-Volkswagen Korea, BMW Group Korea and Mercedes-Benz Korea — sold a combined 16,217 vehicles last month, jumping 54 percent from 10,536 a year ago, it said.
In contrast, Japanese carmakers saw their sales plunge 64 percent to 1,259 units from 3,536 during the same period, as the two countries are still at odds over Tokyo’s export curbs against Seoul last year.
Five Japanese brands are available in the Korean passenger vehicle market — Toyota Motor Corp. and its luxury brand Lexus; Honda Motor Co.; and Nissan Motor Co. and its premium brand Infiniti.
Last July, Japan tightened regulations on exports to South Korea of three high-tech materials critical for the production of semiconductors and displays.
In August, Japan also removed South Korea from its list of countries given preferential treatment in trade procedures.
South Korea views the moves as retaliation against 2018 Supreme Court rulings here ordering Japanese firms to compensate South Korean victims of forced labor during Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.